In the book “Valentine”, a teenage girl sits on the ground early one morning, ramrod straight. Afraid to make a sound.
Sleeping nearby in his truck is the boy who repeatedly raped her the night before. When she got into his car at Sonic the night before he seemed so nice.
She went willingly. And wonders if she deserves what happened.
It is February 15, 1976, the day after Valentine’s day, in Odessa, Texas. A town on the cusp of the next great oil boom.
Gloria turns her head slowly back and forth, and understanding that it is her silence as much as anything else that’s keeping her alive, she wordlessly considers the pieces of her body as they appear to her.
Arm. Here is an arm, a foot. The foot bone’s connected to the heel bone, she thinks, and the heel bone’s connected to the anklebone. And over there, on the ground next to the wooden drill platform, her heart.
This is a story about discrimination. It is about how a white boy can rape a Mexican girl and everyone blames her. Declares she’s trying to sully his fine reputation.
It is about the townspeople, just woman rooting for her. And the rest assuming she’s just a worthless tart. A Mexican.
When Gloria finally gets the courage to make her way to a distant farmhouse porch, the woman who appears at the door is Mary Rose.
When I think back on that day and finding Gloria Ramirez on my front porch, my memories are stitched together like pieces of a scrap quilt, each a different shape and color, all bound together by a thin black ribbon, and I expect it will always be this way.
Come August, I will testify that I did the best I could, under the circumstances, but I will not tell them how I failed her.
I was twenty-six years old, seven months pregnant with my second baby, and heavy as a Buick.
This story explores all the ways that females are treated different than men. Whites treated different than non-whites.
The plot treads back and forth between various town residents, about their lives and how they intersect with this girl no one but Mary Ann has even seen.
It is a well-written and tightly crafted book. The author’s approach to the way she writes is concise and stark. In much the same way the violent act against Gloria was raw and coarse.
The author delves deeply into her characters. You feel like you could walk up, take them by the hand and sit down for an iced tea on their front porch. The delicious minutiae of the character’s lives is what makes this book remarkable.
If you like well crafted characters that weave in and out of the story, as rooted in place as the windy and dusty town, then you will like this book.
It is about Gloria and what happened to her. But it is also about certain residents of the town the author paints in wide and colorful brush strokes. Making them appear as real as your next door neighbor.
About The Author:
Before devoting herself to writing, Elizabeth variously tended bar, taught English, drove a cab, edited psychology dissertations, and painted silos and cooling towers at a petrochemical plant.
For a time, she lived in a one-room cabin in the woods outside of Flagstaff, Arizona while she worked as a classical music announcer.
A native of West Texas, she is most at home in the desert, near the sea, or on the side of a mountain. She lives in Chicago, but she dreams of being bi-coastal (Lake Michigan and Lake Travis).